How to Substitute (Reverse Engineer) Navan Tahitian Vanilla Liquor For Use In Cocktails?

Navan was a delicious Cognac based Tahitian vanilla liquor used for a couple recipes in my first cocktail book, Kahuna Kevin's Tiki Cocktails Volume 1, written in 2009. Over the past couple years, I've had many readers ask where to find Navan liquor, so here's a simplified explanation of what happened to Navan, and how to make a decent substitute for your home or professional bar.

Unfortunately the maker of Navan (same maker as Grand Marnier, the bottle shape was even similar) ceased production years ago due to slow sales, the product was quickly phased out, and the spirit offerings today are sadly short of a decent quality vanilla liquor substitute or competing product. Navan liquor had a wonderful Tahitian vanilla floral bouquet, accented by sweet honey notes and tongue warming Cognac. The taste was exceptional by itself as an after dinner sipper, as well as mixed in cocktails, in my personal case Tiki drinks.

Unless you were lucky enough to catch the rare online article mentioning Navan's production closure (swift demise), and hoarded bottles soon after (I've only got 1 small 375ml bottle left after dropping and breaking a new 750ml during my move), you're basically left to your own devices finding a substitute (Hint: There are NONE), or in this case reverse engineering a suitable quality alternative.

Here's the basics on how to recreate one of my favorite flavored liquors, for you to remake my earliest cocktails as intended, but ALSO hopefully a few of you out there will experiment on your own and bring some new Tiki drinks (or non-Tiki) to life that otherwise would have never existed.

What you'll need...

1. A decent mid to high grade sipping Cognac. This is the backbone of the liquor so don't skimp kids! Once the higher quality/proof Cognacs hit water they really open up.

2. Organic Grade A Clover Honey. Do NOT use flavored honeys, like mesquite, etc. You want the Tahitian vanilla and Cognac to be the stars of this liquor, with a simple but high quality honey to smooth out the overall alcohol burn.

3. Purchase Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract. 8 ounce bottles are available at Amazon.com. (This is the best and most flavorful vanilla extract that you will ever find for the price. Great for baking too! Awesome investment for your home bar and kitchen. Put some in a small atomizer as well to flavor other cocktails, because you WILL use this, it's that delicious!)

*Some may be asking why not just use real Tahitian vanilla beans to extract in the Cognac... Simple: CONTROL. Different proof Cognacs will extract botanicals at different speeds, and you can easily wreck an entire batch (too vanilla forward) if not extremely careful. Adding a quality Tahitian vanilla extract gives you absolute control over the liquor to Vanilla and honey balance in real time, and saves potentially trashing both expensive vanilla beans and Cognac.*

-Add 6-12 ounces of Cognac to a Mason jar or other tall cocktail mixing glass. Make sure it's something easy to pour the final mixture into another bottle preferred for storage and to use when actually mixing cocktails. Right now all we care about is ease of mixing ingredients without spilling and ease of checking for consistency and flavor balance.

-Add honey and stir until fully dissolved (do NOT use heat!), until the consistency starts to slightly thicken, similar to the consistency of Simple Sugar Syrup. Simple Syrup is 1:1 ratio sugar to water, so be careful as you approach this halfway point with honey not to go overboard. Less is better at first, sample, add more. The Cognac's alcohol proof will be the deciding factor on final honey amount and overall flavor balance, and main reason I'm not posting an actual recipe with ratio numbers.

-Sample the mixture at each addition. It should be sweet, but also let the Cognac cut through with a nice warming effect. If overly sweet, add small amounts of Cognac until the flavor is balanced again and a pleasant warming Cognac heat returns to the tongue. Warm, not burn.

-Start adding the Tahitian Vanilla extract in small 1/4 teaspoon quantities. Stir the mixture completely. Always sample again before proceeding to gauge where you're at. Add more vanilla as needed (you may want to use an eyedropper at the latest stage) until it's balanced between the honey and Cognac, not overpowering. What you're trying to achieve as an overall flavor is a honey sweet floral vanilla note, then the Cognac warmth wraps everything together and lingers. Scent should similarly be vanilla honey sweetness upfront before the Cognac alcohol completely permeates the nose a split second later.

Nothing should overpower the other, but the Tahitian vanilla is ever so slightly forward, as I'm sampling the original Navan right now as I type.

Once this balance is achieved, transfer the mixture into a bottle with a screw cap or air tight stopper, preferably a bottle the size of the mixture. Do NOT store half a bottle worth of liquor into a bottle twice as large. Air is the enemy, and this extra air gap will only oxidize the beautiful flavors faster over time. Store in the fridge if you're not going to use completely in the next month or two.

Those last 2 sentences should apply to any other natural ingredient liquors in your bar, and any hard alcohol half or more empty should be transfered to smaller bottles to eliminate oxidization degradation. Also keep everything away from indoor light, sunlight, and far away from direct heat sources above room temperature. Keeping your half empty booze in a sun lit garage mid-summer is a recipe for absolute disaster and sadness.

Lastly, keep notes on the brand of Cognac, alcohol proof and ingredient ratios to speed up making your next batch. Don't want to make an entire batch and just need a small amount of this liquor for a couple cocktails? Simply use the same ingredients and steps above, but only use an ounce or so of Cognac as a base starter, then add all other ingredients slowly to taste.

Enough ranting. Now enjoy making drinks from Kahuna Kevin's Tiki Cocktails Volume 1 originally using Navan liquor, and I hope everyone has a blast experimenting and inventing many new cocktails. I think we should call this liquor substitute Kevan...

Cheers! -KK

Written by Kahuna Kevin —

Down To The Last 6 Voodoo Bamboo Tiki Mugs

There's only a small handful of Voodoo Bamboo Tiki Mugs left after January's pre-order rush. Only 30 mugs are produced, each numbered, signed and includes special signed bonus items, so snag one quick before you miss out. Definitely a mug worthy of being displayed on your top shelf. It's a real stunner and photos do not do jusice to the details and color - it's also a very solid and heavy mug. Mahalo for your continued support! -KK

All Open Voodoo Bamboo Tiki Mug Pre-Orders Are Shipping Today!

Great news, the stars aligned and mugs arrived well before scheduled. I managed to bust ass and box up all the open pre-orders. I'm on my way now to the post office to ship your mugs. Big Mahalo for everyone's support. If you still want a mug there's only a small handful left. Tell your friends to jump over here real quick. Cheers! -KK

Only 9 Voodoo Bamboo Tiki Mugs Left To Order

Thank you for the overwhelming Voodoo Bamboo release day pre-orders. 21 of 30 mugs have been sold in only 14 hours of  launching, leaving only 9 mugs left available. My poor phone was nearly blowing up with the constant *cha-ching* sales notifications.

The first 8 mugs are shipping today (Saturday Jan. 20), mugs 9-16 should arrive at my shop by Monday Jan. 22, and rolling shipments will continue on until later that week. Most likely all mugs will be sold very soon and chances are extremely high that all orders will ship before February.

Thanks again for your support, and have an awesome weekend everyone... I'll be preparing lots of boxes. ;) - KK


Voodoo Bamboo Tiki Mug Pre-Orders Start JAN 19, 6:00PM PST!

Series #2 of the Voodoo Bamboo mugs is under production and almost done. Pre-orders to reserve mugs will be open starting Jan. 19 at 6:00pm PST sharp. Only 30 available.

Mugs are glazed in a brown bamboo color, come with hand braided rope with cast Harpy Eagle talons, each one is signed by manufacturer PopTiki and myself, etch nunbered #/30, as a bonus each order will include a signed & numbered Voodoo Bamboo cocktail recipe postcard and Kahuna Kevin logo drink coaster.

Mahalao for your continued support! -KK

Spend $100+ & Get A Free Book. Deal Ends Monday 8/21

Tiki Oasis is over but here's some of what's available at KahunaKevin.com right now, plus how to score FREE books.

1. Spend $100+ and get any 1 of my books FREE.

2. Spend $200+ and get any 2 of my books for FREE.

3. Spend $300+ and get my book trilogy signed, plus a men's or women's black logo shirt (whatever size is still available) FREE.

Deal for US Orders Only. Prices above = cart total before shipping. Offer ends Sunday 8/20 11:59PM. Just be sure to add a note during checkout to let me know which book/s you want. Mahalo for your support! -KK

#kahunakevin #smallbusiness #giftideas #gifts #madeinusa #madeinamerica #tiki #tikimugs #presents #cocktailbooks #cocktails #drinks #bartending #barware #coolgifts #skull #mug #blue #tikioasis2017 #red #tikio #gold #retro #pinup #tikiasfuck #tikioasis #coolstuff #instacool #collectible #free

New Inventory Just Arrived!

A huge shipment of mugs just arrived from the fine folks at Eekum Bookum Tiki Mugs.

Everything is back in stock in limited quantities except for the Blue/Gold Open Edition Idols - Those reserve orders kept racking up and as soon as the shipment arrived they were already sold out. The next shipment should arrive around mid-August, so make sure to reserve order now to guarantee earliest delivery.

The best news today is the arrival of Open Edition Blue Lava Idols with real white gold bowls! The color combination of blues and silver really adds a "cool" appearance to the mug vs the warmer tones of the Red Lava mug. These two opposing color combinations look really awesome next to each other, so if you already have the Red Lava Idol in your Tiki mug collection, you may want to pick up his cooler brother.

These non-numbered Open Edition mugs are the same exceptional hand made quality as the other Idol mugs. Ships double-boxed and over packed to eliminate breakage during transit.

Mahalo for supporting small US businesses and buying products Made In America! You are supporting many families, not corporate shareholders.  -KK

Lots of inventory arriving July 25th!

3 large shipments of Idol mugs and Tiki Logs are on the way and scheduled to arrive July 25th. All open reserve orders will be shipping mid next week, so big mahalo for your patience!

Mug producer Eekum Bookum has been absolutely slammed making hundreds of mugs for large Tiki fesival projects like Tiki Oasis, so us little guys have wait a bit longer. Things should be smoothed out later this year as I hear Eekum Bookum is expanding their operations and adding one or two more mug firing kikns to their production line. This should hopefully minimize delays in the future. Less waiting makes everyone happy!

Kahuna Kevin's Summer Sale is GO!

Cocktail books, Blue/Gold Lava Idol Tiki Mugs, NumbSkull Tiki mugs, t-shirts and the last 3 Tiki Logs cocktail bowls I have in stock are all on discount! Summer is officially here so be sure to get all 3 of my cocktail books, save some cash and throw the best Tiki block party ever. Be someone!-KK

Open Edition Red Lava & Stone Idols Just Added!

There's a handful of new Open Edition versions of the Idol Bastard Red Lava & Stone Tiki Mug. This is the same exact high quality handmade stoneware mug made in the USA, only no signature, no number, and no bonus cocktail recipe postcard.

The bonus is you get over $25 off the original $99 price! Hurry and order, as there's leftover logo cocktail coasters and vinyl stickers I'll be happy to throw in for free while supplies last. Thanks for your support! -KK


MARCH 19, 2019 UPDATE:

***Bob Lebowski Bowling Pin Tiki Mug and Bowling Ball Bowl pre-orders are now OPEN! Only 100 of each design will be produced, numbered and signed. Limited discounted Mug/Bowl early-bird bundles are available for those folks who want both at the best prices. Mahalo for your support - AND CHECK OUT THE NEW PROGRESS PHOTOS!

My 4th cocktail book is finally released! Snag an autographed copy of the first print while supplies last!

Four volume book bundle product added to the shop! Save even more $ when you purchase all 4 books. No coupon code needed!

Reusable Titanium swizzle straws for large Tiki mugs are available for purchase. Custom cut to 11.5-inches long and available in 2 brilliant finishes. 3/8-inch round. Hand made in America, top quality!

Aromatic cocktail bitters & signed book bundles are available in very limited quantities - Less than 20 bottles produced each year. A special Double-Barrel aged version is now available!

All remaining T-shirts and Tank Tops are on sale!

News & Blog

New Mug Pre-orders Are Live!

Pre-orders for the upcoming 'Pinhead' and 'Bowling Bob" mug/bowls are now open. Early work on the 3D modeling is now underway and photos will be updated as additional progress is...


My Bob Lebowski Bowling Pin Tiki Mugs and Bowling Ball Tiki Bowls will be available to pre-order this Monday March 4th at 6:00 PM PST. Only 100 of each design...

New Tiki Mug and Tiki Bowl in the works soon...

Check the Tiki Mugs & Bowls page for a sneak peek! Pre-orders will be announced here and on my social media sites in advance very soon after paperwork is finalized...

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